While I have spent the past two days attending meetings and preparing classes at my new school in Dublin, my nephews are still enjoying the penultimate week of the summer holidays. The new term at Huish Episcopi does not begin until 6th September.
The penultimate week of the school summer holidays had always a feeling of security, there was still a full week as a buffer between the present moment and the dreaded return to school with its loss of the freedom to do whatever we chose with the time. As long as the bank holiday weekend still lay ahead, there were still plenty of days to be enjoyed.
Sometimes, there was a wish that time might be stopped, that there might be a moment which would remain unchanged. Always, the question of stopping time prompts the recall of a single scene.
It was harvest time on my Grandad’s farm at Pibsbury, between Huish Episcopi and Langport, and my cousin Steve’s orange Triumph Toledo was parked in a field; its passenger door was open and the Rolling Stones’ song Angie was being played on the car radio, presumably on BBC Radio 1 for there were no other stations that would have been likely to have been playing such music. It was one of the hot summers, maybe 1975 or 1976, probably the latter, and there was nothing to burst the bubble of buoyant optimism.
Looking back the forty-five years to that summer’s day, there is no particular reason why it should have retained such a place in the memory.
To be out in the fields during such a time of activity was unremarkable, that was where the work was. At fourteen or fifteen years old, it was hardly a moment that offered the chance to make a significant contribution to the harvest effort, or to earn very much. A field in the heart of deeply rural Somerset was not going to be a place where anyone important or famous would be met. The only thing with which the moment was suffused was a sense of there being time.
Time seems not to move in a linear and consistent way, rather it comes in peaks and troughs, in sound and in silence, in presence and in absence, in pulses punctuated by inactivity. Time on that Somerset summer day was somehow different, somehow static, somehow like a day in the penultimate week of the school holidays.